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Scorpions’ “Taken by Force” is the best metal album of the 70’s (with Black Sabbath’s ‘Master of Reality” a close second, of course); period. Throwing the safest bridge between the heavy, brooding riffage of early Sabbath and the more aggressive trends of the 80’s (speed and thrash, that is), which at this stage had only been slightly hinted at, if at all, this pivotal album is anything an early metal fan would look for. And this is the album on which the Scorps finally found themselves: the road more or less travelled had already started with “In Trance”, but the metallic numbers were dissipated by too many ballads, a tendency which was closely followed on “Virgin Killer” as well. So the band needed something as compulsively aggressive as this in order to take off... by force. And here it was:
The brutal shred of the opening “Steamrock Fever” was one of the first signs at the time that something more ominous and intense was going to come in a few years; a thrash/speed meta precursor second to none, this track also saw Meine acquiring a more sinister tone to fit the aggressive guitar approach. Frowns would inevitably appear on the listener’s face, after hearing the opening cords of the next “We’ll Burn the Sky”, but later on this song contains some of the most compulsive headbanging riffs of the decade, the guys shredding like demented turning this song into one of the mandatory tracks in the band’s catalogue.
So far, so great… The band’s past shows up briefly on the next two cuts, both mild heavy rockers with a big hit potential, far from a disappointment, but totally overshadowed by “The Sails of Charon”: a superb power/doomster with some of the darkest, most brooding riffs around at the time, and some of the greatest lead guitar work to ever grace a metal album: yes, the Scorps suffered a great loss when Uli Roth left after this album’s release. Time for rest (you’ll need it, trust me!) with the more radio-friendly “Your Light”, before the explosion which “He’s a Woman, She’s a Man” is: thrash metal was literally born with this piece making the Motorhead speedy rock’n roll boogies at the time sound like an infant lullaby. No wonder quite a few speed/thrash metal acts (Evildead, Helstar, Helloween) have picked this song to pay tribute to its pioneering, groundbreaking, significance.
Even the kindergarden children know that Scorpions used to end their albums with a ballad so “Born to Touch Your Feelings” should come as no surprise to both the more and less initiated, one of the most romantic songs the band have ever come up with, but its impact would be minimal after the preceding “carnage”, and may remain hardly noticed at first listen. And here we are, at the end of this roller-coaster of a metal album.
Logically the band followed it with their first recorded live performance (“Tokyo Tapes”) right after, having finally accumulated enough hard-hitting numbers to rock the heads of the fans worldwide. With the future course well outlined now, the guys’ way to the top was fairly clear, not without the guitar wizard Roth’s leaving after a clash with the rest as to what direction the band’s style should take from then on. Without him the band’s approach became colder and less melodic, and arguably less striking, but this proved no obstacle for the making of other great efforts, like “Animal Magnetism, “Blackout”, etc.
Gracefully topping the “holy three” of 70’s metal (the other two: the aforementioned Black Sabbath’s “Master of Reality”, and Judas Priest’s ‘Stained Class”), this great album may not sound as impressive nowadays, if taken (by force) as a whole, but the superior side largely compensates for the several pitfalls which were a pretty common occurrence for the metal albums at the time when older and younger practitioners were still looking for their most-fitting face, experimenting with all kinds of influences and nuances, more or less metal-related. Did the Scorps ever manage to top it up? Well, this is a polemical question, but it’s undeniable that with it in sight the way to “Blackout” and “Love at First Sting” seemed way clearer. And the journey on Charon’s boat by all means safer…